Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hamill, then Nelson, Now McDaid

The murder of Kevin McDaid by a loyalist mob while police looked on echoes the murder of Robert Hamill, another Catholic beaten to death by a mob of bigots in 1997 while police looked on and failed to intervene or summon back-up. No-one was ever convicted of Hamill’s murder and his family’s lawyer – Rosemary Nelson - was murdered in a car bombing after death threats from Unionist terrorists and police officers colluding with them. It can’t be allowed to happen again.

On the 24th of May a mob of bigots who think they’re ‘Protestants’ went on a victory march in Northern Ireland through Catholic areas after Glasgow Rangers beat Celtic in a football match. Their target was any house flying an Irish flag, as many Republicans and Celtic fans do, just as many Unionists and Rangers fans fly British flags. Barricades with Irish flags set up by Catholics to stop the marchers had already been removed after police arrived. Kevin McDaid was one of the men who helped remove some of the barricades (1), (2).

The mob decided to target McDaid’s neighbour’s house though, which had Irish flags outside it. McDaid, tried to calm both sides down. The mob, shouting that they were UDA (Ulster Defence Association – a ‘loyalist’ or Unionist terrorist group), attacked McDaid, his neighbour, both men’s wives and McDaid’s son with their fists, feet and baseball bats, killing McDaid and leaving his neighbour in a serious condition (1), (2).

According to the survivors police sat and watched from their vehicle without intervening. They claim to have been too afraid to try to tackle so many attackers. The political wing of the UDA condemned the attack and police said the UDA had not been involved (1), (2), (3).

This is a terrible enough thing to happen in itself. What’s worse though is that so far it seems to be a replay of the murder of Robert Hamill in 1997, which was followed, after death threats from UDA and RUC men, by the murder of the Hamill family’s lawyer, Rosemary Nelson, in a car bombing in 1999.

No-one with any sense wants to let the death of Kevin McDaid be used as an excuse for revenge attacks. Evelyn McDaid, Kevin’s widow and a Protestant, has bravely called for no revenge to be taken. She’s right, revenge will only leave another family grieving and solve nothing.

This can’t be allowed to become a re-run of the Robert Hamill case though, with another murder for which no-one was ever convicted, in which police colluded with murderers and some of those seeking the truth ended up murdered too. There must not be revenge but there must be justice through a process of law and there must be a public inquiry into how this happened again. The problem is that British and Northern Irish police and courts have a shameful record on dealing with murders and terrorism by Unionists, just as there has been collusion between some Irish police officers and the IRA in the past.

On the 27th of April 1997 a mob of self-styled ‘Protestants’ beat and kicked Catholic man Robert Hamill to death in an unprovoked attack. Four police-men sat in their vehicle and made no attempt to intervene. They could have also brought armed police patrolling elsewhere in the same town of Portadown by contacting them by radio, but didn’t do so. As in the McDaid case they claimed that they were afraid to leave the vehicle and that not enough reinforcements were available to deal with the mob (4) - (10) & (13) - (17).

Though several men were arrested and charged no-one was ever convicted of killing Robert Hamill.

When his family hired lawyer Rosemary Nelson she received death threats from and was harassed by both UDA terrorists and RUC police officers. RUC men also spread false rumours that both Nelson and Hamill were involved with Republican terrorist groups. Nelson was finally murdered in a car bombing in 1999. No-one has been jailed for her murder either. This is partly due to death threats against witnesses by the murderers and the UDA, but also because the killers have become confident that some of the police are on their side (5) – (9) , (11) & (12).

Hamill’s family gave up on the police and the courts and instead asked the British government for a full public inquiry.A public inquiry into the Hamill murder has begun but has not yet been completed.

Northern Ireland Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan, former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found evidence that MI5, British military intelligence and Northern Irish police colluded with Unionist terrorists in the Hamill and Nelson murders (5) – (13). After O’Loan called for the arrest of several suspects including an RUC policeman her son was beaten unconscious with an iron bar. He told the BBC that the police made no serious attempt to gather any evidence at the scene of the attack or find the attackers (14).

The Northern Irish police force’s claims to have been too afraid to intervene are made dubious by their failure to immediately call for support from more officers. Their claims that enough reinforcements weren’t available are ridiculous in as heavily policed a society as Northern Ireland, especially as many armed officers are available. It’s also noteworthy that no Protestant has been beaten to death while officers from a predominantly Protestant force looked on and did nothing.

While there have always been decent people as well as bigots and colluders in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (formerly the RUC) the force’s record includes too many examples of those colluding with murderers and terrorists not being sacked, tried in court and convicted.

Evelyn McDaid’s call for there to be no revenge attacks is brave, decent and right, but the Northern Irish and British governments owe the Hamill, McDaid and Nelson families justice, both against the killers and against any officers who were negligent or colluded with criminals and anyone involved in government in the present or past who has allowed collusion.

(1) = Times 26 May 2009 ‘Catholic man Kevin McDaid beaten to death 'by UDA gang'’,

(2) = Irish Examiner 26 May 2009 ‘12 quizzed in McDaid mob murder’,

(3) = BBC News 26 May 2009 ‘McDaid murder 'not UDA' – police’,

(4) = BBC News 26 May 2009 ‘Police 'stood by' as man murdered’,

(5) = BBC News 22 Jan 2007 ‘NI police colluded with killers’,

(6) = 01 Feb 2004 ‘'Strong evidence' of collusion in Ulster killings’,

(7) = Human Rights Watch World Report 1999 – United Kingdom – Northern Ireland, , (on Hamill killing and RUC inaction)

(8) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2000 – United Kingdom, , (covers Nelson and Hamill)

(9) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2001 – United Kingdom,, (covers Nelson and Hamill)

(10) = Amnesty International 01 Oct 1999 ‘The Sectarian Killing of Robert Hamill’,

(11) = Amnesty International 1999 01 April 1999 ‘THE KILLING OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER ROSEMARY NELSON’,

(12) = House of Commons (2004) ‘Cory Collusion Inquiry Report : Rosemary Nelson’,

(13) House of Commons (2004) ‘Cory Collusion Inquiry Report : Robert Hamill’,

(14) = BBC News 15 Aug 2006 ‘Assault gang 'will not be caught'’,

(15) = BBC News 01 May 2009 ‘Hamill suspect had 'RUC contact'’,

(16) = Guardian 11 Apr 2001 ‘Seven held in Ulster mob murder inquiry’,, (one an RUC man)

(17) = BBC News 19 May 2009 ‘Police 'could have saved victim'

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